As a professional educator of 20 years, I was able to work with many amazing young people. Watching them learn, grow, fail, improve, and succeed was a blessing. And success wasn't always the "A" or getting into the next Honors or AP class. Sometimes it was finally writing a computer program completely on their own, tackling a Geometric proof from start to finish, or moving up one letter grade on their report card.
I experience a very similar and as wonderful feeling working with my clients now as a cycling coach. Over the ten-plus years, I've been very fortunate to have been able to witness many, many "podiums" with my athletes. From NCAA titles to Leadville Buckles to Regional Championships to National Podiums to International Success. The reason why I put "podiums" in quotes is that, more and more frequently now, success for some of my clients is not measured in stepping up onto the box during the awards ceremony, but in more personal gains without the fanfare.. These might be riding their bike for the first time beyond 20 miles...50 miles...100 miles. Or making up that steep hill on their lunchtime route without having to walk. Or sticking with the lead group on the Saturday morning hammer-fest. Or ever just being able to reach down and grab their water bottle and confidently take a drink while riding. We all have our own rainbow jersey to chase.
This year I've had four experiences that really struck me and reinforced the fact that it's not always about the finish line and the podium. The first two were at my weekly Trainer Session at Cycle Craft. Before one of the classes began, one of my regular participants came up to tell me that he rode outside for the first time this year. The loop was a hilly 42 miles, and he felt strong the entire time. He even passed the ride leaders going up hill, which is something that doesn't ever happen during his rides. According to him, all of this was thanks to the class.
Next, at the end of class, a participant who was hard of hearing came up and wrote a note explaining that it would be her last class as she would be away for business. Then she came over next to me and handed her phone to another rider to snap a shot of the two of us together. Then, she signed "Thank You" which I signed back to her. I was truly touched and that night will not easily fade from my memory. I am always amazed when folks thank me for the class, as I believe the thanks goes to them for giving me the opportunity to train them. This serves to remind us all that it's not about the destination, but the incredible journey that we're all a part of on our way to the many destinations in our lives. This was a victory for me.
Outside of class, I received two e-mails that really made me smile. When the messages came through, we were in the dead of winter. This part of winter can be particularly tough for cyclists in the North East; events have not yet begun, we're all tired of the cold weather, the indoor trainer is really getting old, and we want to get out and go fast! So to have these two notes was super. The first one was from another trainer session participant who let me know that due to a work conflict, she would not be at the last class.. But she wrote "I love these sessions! I'm riding very strong now also- getting back in shape thanks to you!" Awesome! And the final note was from a client that I'm training remotely, who wrote "Happy day last week when I fit into something I haven't looked good in for some time.." Right on!
Sure, the "podium" reports are GREAT and I will always do my little happy dance when I get them, but there are many other reasons to celebrate out there. Keep pushing yourself to improve but make sure you also step back and realize the gains that you've made.
Give me a shout and we can get you on your way to your own personal rainbow jersey!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.